I have no experience with other versions of shotmakers but I just got mine two weeks ago and I am making usable shot. Jim is great at answering questions as I probably called him 6 times over a year before I finally decided to get my own. As many on this site will attest to make sure you get your ingots correct, no babbitt or zinc. I would hate to think of how many hours I had looking at old threads on here and shotgunworld.com but it payed off.
Just make sure you have a reasonably good source for lead. I had enough ingots stockpiled to pay for about 2/3 of the machine before I purchased.
I personally think it is fun but there is alot to it. Sorting the wheel weights, smelting the ingots, building the stand for the shotmaker, Coolant system, washing the shot, sizing through a couple different screens, graphiting and finally shooting.
Mr. Stewart as stated above. I have had mine three years and in fact run two at a time now. Jim is great with his help and honest as it comes. He has no secrets. I went to his house for about a half day before I bought one and he showed me everything he does.
As stated above, have a lead source, it's getting harder to find. If you go forward, I will be happy to help you in any way. As will several others who post here.
My set up is "fancy", I'm a tinkerer with a good shop. Last run was 800# in about 5 hours through two machines, BUT, BUT, BUT that's just running shot. Now I have to grade, rinse, dry, graphite and bottle. I touch every pound of shot 11 times in the process. It is labor intensive. AND WORTH IT!!
My set up cost me about $1200 total (2-makers, coolant, pumps, screens, graphite equip, and etc.) and with wheel weights costing about $40 for a five gallon bucket, I still run shot for about $12 for 25#.
Keep my name and let me know if I can help.
I've been making shot for about 5 years now using a Stewart set-up with double drippers. What everybody says so far in this post is absolutely true. My rule of thumb is this: If you change the oil in your vehicles, you can make shot. If not, don't think you're going to plug-and-play. It is not that simple. It takes time and you have to pay attention. Molten lead is not to be trifled with. If you have time, and have good resources for clean lead with a reasonable amount of antimony in it to melt down and make ingots from, by all means, go for it. I have found that since I started making shot, acquiring lead wheel weights, as well as decent scrap lead, is getting harder and harder. It is, however, quite satisfying to reload shells with your own shot and shoot good scores. Good luck.
Shooting Jack: I didn't buy my coolant tank from Mr. Stewart. I had a friend who had some 20MM ammo cans so I purchase one from him. It works pretty good and holds around 8 gallons of coolant so I can run about 35-40 lbs before I have to open the bottom drain.
While questions are being asked, I wondered if there is a simple setup for catching the shot. I figured that a simple 12 volt pump like a bilge pump would work for recirculating the coolant. What is the cheapest/easiest coolant material and percentage strength?
For Coolant I am using 100% ALL laundry Detergent. It isn't cheap and I have about $100 in coolant but it seems to work well so I haven't even tried anything else.
When I first started I was using a sump pump and trying to keep the level constant. After a couple of runs I gave up on the recirculating idea as the laundry detergent thins as it warms up causing a change in flow rate. I found I got better/more consistent results from batch runs. I know it is a bit slower but with my limited ability to wash, sort and dry it works out better and I am not stuck doing one job for hours on end, that takes all the fun out of it.
That I know of, there are only two Shotmaking machines on the market. Littleton and Stewart. I have had Littleton's since 1987 and have made tons of shot on them. That being said, if I were buying today I would buy Stewart because of the customer service.
Acquiring usable lead is the biggest problem. One batch of bad lead will really screw up your shot making for the day. Go through all the old threads on shot making to understand some of the issues, and before you buy.
Shooting Jack - I catch my shot in a 17" long French fry basket with fiberglass
screen material liners. The basket will fit under two Stewart makers. I scoop out the shot using a kitchen ladle. See demo photo. In shotmaking the basket is completely submerged in the coolant.
Jim Porter - I sun dry my shot after hosing the coolant off. Rain? I just leave it out overnight to dry the next day in the sun. One rack edge is raised up off the metal door to get heat under the shot, too.
The boxes I use are bakery delivery racks with fiberglass mosquito screening on the bottom. Bread bakers ship loaves of bread that get carried into restaurants and the empties are stacked up outside by the back door at night. Even though it is about 10 degrees here in MN, I went outside and posed the two racks, albeit without the mosquito netting in the bottoms. I have about 12 of these racks.
Nice set up doggai. I took my continuous flow down and am back to batch set ups. I don't have as much room in my new shop as I used to have. I still have about 2 to 3 tons of ingots. I think that will be about it. I've stopped looking for lead.